Death of a Salesman is one of the greatest dramas of the 21st century. Written by famous American playwright, Arthur Miller, it represents a rendering of memories that make up the last twenty-four hours of the life of a salesperson Willy Loman. The play focuses on the man unable to accept changes in himself, his family, and the world around him. Miller uses this character to shatter the myth that material wealth can truly bring happiness. In his pursuit of the American Dream, the main character is depicted as both the culprit and the victim of his fate, which adds to understanding the personal responsibilities for one’s own future.
The main character, Willy Loman, has been working as a salesperson during all his life. He is at the sunset of his working life and experiences inability to complete his dreams. Loman’s aim is to secure and provide appropriate financial support for his family. He is depicted as a person who has been trying to make his American Dream come true at any price and by all accessible means. Willy’s desire to live a wealthy life is not considered a crime. It is a good dream which is worth a fight. In the story, his son Happy says, “He had a good dream. It’s the only dream you can have – to come out number one man”. However, in his struggle he loses himself, his moral values, and, eventually, loses control over his life. Loman ends up in debts, drowning in his lies and is partially guilty of such an ending.
In a certain sense, the protagonist is a simple victim of his own desires, external influence, and circumstances. During all his life, Willy has been looking for an opportunity of self-assertion. His search for the awareness of self-worth is full of constant disappointment, which he refuses to accept. He is seeking himself outside and wants to gain recognition through the eyes of the others. However, as Willy does not want to listen to the outside world, he is forced to create his own sources of guidance. This guidance comes in the form of his relatives, namely father and brother, and the figure of Dave Singleman. This may serve as an argument in favor of the suggestion that Loman is a victim of the delusive impact of other people.
Accomplishments of his brother inspire Willy. He treats Ben as a god-like figure. He gained a lot in his life and should definitely know the secret of success. Willy perceives Ben’s words as the formula for success: “When I was seventeen I walked into the jungle when I was twenty- one I walked out”. Willy takes this as a sign that the greatest things can happen and makes this as a point to his sons. Nevertheless, this still stands as a vague insight for Willy, thus, the means of gaining success are still a mystery to him.
Willy’s relationships with father also prompt his desire for wealth. Everything he knows about his parent is the information provided by his brother Ben. Loman’s father is a very good inventor of flutes as well as a salesperson. He is also a great spender; in fact, this fact might have had a strong influence on Willy’s selection of profession. The play points to the fact that the protagonist is enormously influenced by the lack of a father’s upbringing. In a conversation with his brother, Willy claims that the fact that their father abandoned him made him become inadequate. Further Willy confesses that it also caused him to feel a lack of identity: “Dad left when I was such a baby, and I never had the chance to talk to him and I still feel– kind of temporary about myself”. This evidence points to the fact that Loman’s vain efforts to make a fortune which eventually have led to his misfortune have roots in the past. Even though the protagonist has the enthusiasm and a great example of his father and brother before him, he does not have a clear plan of how to satisfy his ambitions. That is why he eventually becomes a victim of desire to catch up with his relatives and wastes his life chasing a vague dream.
Dave Singleman, who never appears as a separate active character, has a great influence on Willy. This figure personifies Willy’s idea about the true and ideal salesperson. The protagonist dreams to achieve similar success in life. However, in reality, all the best qualities of Dave Singleman are shallow and could not help the main character on his way to achieving his dreams. Willy makes an imaginary idol from this character. This fact has a detrimental effect on his mind and eventually forces him to shut off from the outer world.
Human factor contributes to Willy’s decay in the sense that people surrounding him do not even try to help him. The attitude of Willy’s wife is the most obvious example of people’s inability to intrude into the protagonist’s fate. Linda never confronts her husband about his lies and troubles he gets into. For example, she does not quarrel when she finds out that Willy is out of financial means and has been borrowing money from his uncle Charley. Such negligence contributed greatly to Loman’s further failures. Linda is aware of her husband’s problems and does nothing to stop him. She herself often reminds Willy of the significant figure of Dave Singleman and it is her attitude that partially prevents him from facing reality. Instead of throwing a buoy, she allows the head of Loman’s family to sink deeper and deeper.
Willy’s desire for success extends to a further degree than just the need for wealth, security, goods, and status. He also wants to achieve prominence – he aims at recognition and wants to reassure his self-worth. Willy worries that he does not manage to leave a noticeable footprint in the history of the world or at least his kin and fails to complete the duties of both a father and a husband. “Some people accomplish something” – Willy tells his wife. On the other hand, the readers have to feel sorry for him because Loman’s fate embodies the tragedy of a small man in a big world